Stories in this Theme

What it looks like: The Masked Owl is a large, speckled bird with big, dark eyes and a narrow pointed bill set in a pale, flat, heart-shaped face. Its chest and belly are white or chestnut, and its back and wings are dark grey to brown. It has strong-clawed, well-feathered legs. It calls with a combination of loud shrieks and whistles.

What it looks like: Lantern Tree is a bushy shrub or tree that can grow as tall as 22 metres high, but is usually much smaller. It has rubbery, heart-shaped leaves that are joined to the leaf-stalk partway down the leaf. Its greenish-white inflorescences consist of several clusters of one female and two male flowers, which are fragrant. The fruit is fleshy, waxy white or reddish.

What it looks like: Warren's Mangosteen is a medium-sized rainforest tree with simple, opposite leaves that have parallel veins. Broken petioles and twigs produce a yellow sap.

Where it lives: Warren's Mangosteen is a plant of well-developed rainforest and riparian areas in Far North Queensland and Papua New Guinea. A single record for the Northern Territory comes from a mangrove encircled hill, in the Jessie River on Melville Island.

What it looks like: Xylopia is an open shrub or erect sapling that can grow to 3 metres high. It holds its primary branches perpendicular to its central stem. The alternating leaves are also held horizontally, and, in some plants, have wavy margins, giving the plant a feathery appearance.

What it looks like: Stems of this Ground Orchid each have up to six shiny green, broad, paper-thin, near-basal leaves with wavy margins, and a long flower spike bearing numerous small purple flowers.

What it looks like: The Yellow-spotted, or Floodplain, Monitor is a large goanna that can grow nearly one and a half metres long. It is dark brown with alternating bands of large black spots and smaller dark-edged yellow spots. It is paler underneath, often with lines of spots. Its tail is flattened sideways, narrow bands at the end making it appear lighter.

What it looks like: The Australian Painted Snipe is a shorebird that stands about 20 cm high and wears a distinctive black and white, rugby jumper V on its chest and a bold white stripe through its eye. Otherwise its plumage on its upper body is mostly chestnut-bronze to dark olive-green, with fine black barring and chestnuts spots, contrasting with its clean white legs and belly.

Fire management: an uncertain science

What it looks like: Northern Laurel, also known as White Walnut, is a tall tree with simple leaves, and peppery-smelling bark. As with many laurels, its leaves are paler below than above. Its clusters of inconspicuous pale brown flowers develop into round green fruit that turn black as they ripen.

Cattle graziers would like to think that if they look after their pastures and keep weeds and pest animals under control, the rest of the environment can look after itself. To some extent this makes sense; particularly in the rangelands where paddocks still contain reasonable tree cover, and where maintaining the native grass species is as important to cattle as it is to wildlife.